European Champions Cup: Does dynasty beckon for Exeter after historic win?
There was a second when Exeter head coach Rob Baxter was ready to do his post-match tv interview on the touchline at Ashton Gate.
When the tv director minimize to him, he was nonetheless turned over his shoulder, his again to the microphone, to gaze adoringly at his workforce as they posed with their first Champions Cup trophy and sprayed the sponsor’s finest.
Baxter will not be trying again for lengthy.
A lot of the build-up to the ultimate, received in nerve-jangling trend towards Parisians Racing 92, centered on his workforce’s decade-long climb from second-tier wannabes to European royalty.
However that regular rise, splintering English membership rugby’s hierarchy, has been constructed on chairman Tony Rowe’s season-by-season plans. At all times trying forward at how far nonetheless to climb, somewhat than stopping to admire the view.
Subsequent weekend, and the prospect to finish the second half of the Double within the Premiership last towards Wasps, looms massive.
However, as they journey residence again down the M5, Baxter, Rowe and the remaining would possibly already be permitting their minds to wander just a little long term.
The latest historical past of the Champions Cup has been dominated by dynasties.
Leinster received it 3 times in 4 seasons from 2009.
Toulon received three in a row from 2013. Exeter are solely too conscious of Saracens’ streak of success that included three of the previous 4 titles.
For Baxter that’s the problem. But in addition the chance.
His combine, combining sons of the south-west – seven of the beginning XV got here via the membership’s academy – with a pinch of stardust in Scotland internationals Stuart Hogg and Jonny Grey is potent stuff.
With Saracens’ previous achievements referred to as into query and their future thrown into doubt by the salary-cap scandal, Exeter are undoubtedly England’s dominant membership aspect.
Having seen off a star-studded Racing within the last and Prime 14 champions Toulouse within the semi-finals, they’ll come into subsequent season’s title defence understanding they will flip over the very best from throughout the Channel.
Off the pitch, they appear a distance away from the remaining as effectively.
Final season, they had been the one membership within the Premiership to return a revenue. As coronavirus corrodes the video games’ funds, they’re extra secure than most.
The largest risk to Exeter would possibly, certainly, be their very own success.
Baxter has already stated that the 2020-21 rugby calendar, compressed by coronavirus and clogged with a backlog of worldwide motion, will make subsequent season “very difficult”.
His squad, a number of of whom had been sat within the ticker tape phoning absent household after the trophy presentation, can count on England head coach Eddie Jones to be dialling their quantity and taking them away from Sandy Park for lengthy stretches.
With George Kruis packing his luggage for Japan and Courtney Lawes dominated out of the autumn with damage, uncapped second row Jonny Hill should be shut to creating an England squad for the primary time since he toured South Africa in 2018.
Fly-half Joe Simmonds’ clever kicking from hand, accuracy off the tee and captaincy at simply 23 years of age marked him out as a recreation supervisor of high quality.
Brother Sam Simmonds, who scored his nineteenth attempt of the season through the win over Racing and received the European Participant of the Yr award after, has the impetus that has gone lacking from Billy Vunipola’s recreation not too long ago.
Luke Cowan-Dickie’s relentlessness, Henry Slade’s mastery of time and area in midfield, Jack Nowell’s bottomless urge for food for work – all stood out within the rarefied air of a European last.
In fact, Exeter have been right here earlier than. Don Armand and Matt Kvesic had been championed by Chiefs followers, solely to be largely ignored by England. Jones isn’t moved by public sentiment, his squad alternatives laborious to second-guess.
However Exeter’s cohesion at membership degree could add to all their gamers’ circumstances for worldwide inclusion.
Saracens have equipped England’s backbone lately.
However whereas Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Billy Vunipola and brother Mako have signed on to remain collectively, they’re unlikely to play collectively for his or her membership subsequent season.
With Saracens relegated to the Championship, some have been linked with loans away. Others are utilizing the time to relaxation up and keep contemporary for worldwide motion.
Will it preserve them sharp? Or boring their edge?
The Chiefs are first in line if the latter. And perhaps, Jones will conduct some surgical procedure, if not a full transplant, on that backbone regardless.